Hate Crimes on the Decline within the State
Statewide reports were recently released about the frequency of hate crimes within the state of Florida. A hate crime is an offense where the offender’s choice of victim is determined by prejudice or bigotry. Hate crime status is not afforded to every victim and individual cases are reviewed by state officials to determine whether the statute applies. According to the Florida state code, it is a separate crime to commit a criminal act against someone, based on:
- Their inclusion in a certain racial group;
- The color of their skin;
- The religion they choose to participate in or affiliate with;
- Their inclusion in a certain ethnic group Their ancestry or heritage;
- Their county of national origin; and
- Their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This legislation closely follows guidelines set out by the federal government, which regularly monitors the frequency of hate crimes within the state. In addition, certain hate crimes are prosecuted as federal offenses.
CBS News is reporting that hate crimes in the state of Florida declined by almost a third between 2012 and 2013, with 124 hate crime offenses reported in 2013. According to the Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights, which is the government entity that conducts the research and published the report, 2013 had the lowest number of reported hate crimes since 2002.
Of those incidents, about half were reportedly committed based on the race of the victim. Sexual orientation was the next most frequent classification, accounting for about a quarter of all reported cases. According to the report, one in nine of the incidents was driven by the religious beliefs of the victim. While most of the incidents involved violent behavior against the victim’s person, property crimes accounted for about one-third of the occurrences. When viewed from a geographic perspective, the counties with the most reports for 2013 were Broward, Miami-Dade and Orange, with 18 reports each.
Facing a Hate Crime Charge
When a hate crime determination is made, the state prosecutor decides whether to place an enhancement on the original charge. If the underlying charge is classified as a Class Three Felony, a hate crime classification may increase the classification to a Class Two Felony.
When facing a hate crime charge, the stakes are extremely high for the accused. To successfully prosecute, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all elements of the underlying crime are present. Additionally, it must be proven that the intent behind the commission of the crime was a prejudice. In other words, the prosecutor must prove the mindset of the accused at the time that the offense was allegedly committed.
It is challenging to prove a person’s state of mind. Any number of reasons may exist for the commission of the crime, including money or recklessness. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, the accused can create the necessary doubt to counter the elements of the underlying charge, as well as the hate crime classification.
If you are facing hate crime charges, Attorneys Mycki Ratzan and Jude Faccidomo can provide you with an aggressive and comprehensive defense. Contact Miami Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.